More Gardening Myths and Misconceptions, Debunked

More Gardening Myths and Misconceptions, Debunked

By Michael Jenkins

We’re welcoming so many newcomers to the wonderful world of gardening this year, and while we’re happy to see them we also feel that we should support them with good information. We’ve written before about the many myths, misconceptions, tall-tales, and just plain fabrications that fill gardening lore in order to help debunk them. We’re returning to that again today in order to help foster good garden information for new gardeners and help them avoid some of the myths and misinformation that spread through the world of gardening. Let’s dig in!

Myth #1: Adding sugar to the soil. This myth is especially popular with gardeners growing tomatoes, but versions of it pop up other places as well. In brief, the myth claims that adding sugar to your soil either helps plants grow or makes tomatoes sweeter. The reality is that plants don’t absorb sugar from the soil, but rather produce it themselves through complex processes as the absorb nutrients from the soil and energy from the sun. Adding sugar to your soil will at best waste sugar and at worst will fuel the growth of molds and fungi. It’s best to avoid adding sugar and stick with compost, fertilizer, and other proven soil amendments.

Myth #2: Spreading crushed eggshells around your plants deters slugs. This one may be partially true—slugs don’t enjoy crawling over rough or sharp surfaces. However, slugs are small and light, eggshells aren’t that sharp, and they tend to break down quickly thus limiting their deterrent factor. You’re better off using crushed eggshells as a soil amendment or just adding them to your compost heap. For more tips about dealing with slugs, check out this blog we wrote on just that subject.

Myth #3: Potting soil needs to be replaced every year (or every season). This is a well-intended garden myth, but a myth nonetheless. While potting soil does lose nutrients over time, that’s no reason to replace it. Stirring in a few handfuls of compost and using a good fertilizer throughout the growing season refreshes and revitalizes potting soil nicely. The only time that potting soil needs to be replaced is if it becomes infected with some sort of soil-based pest or pathogen. Other than that, regular soil care is sufficient indefinitely. So, add compost or fertilizer, ensure appropriate drainage, keep the soil loose and un-compacted, and enjoy year after year!

Myth #4: “Hardy” plants will thrive in warmer climates. This is an easy misunderstanding to come to—one might assume that a plant which grows comfortable in USDA Hardiness Zone 3 or 4 would grow like crazy in Zone 7 or Zone 8. However, all plants have a range of needs—soil conditions, temperature, sun, nutrition—and they often won’t do well when placed in conditions outside of that acceptable range. A cold-climate hardy plant may struggle or even die in a hotter zone. So if you want to enjoy plants from another part of the world, consider growing them indoors instead.  It’ll be easier on both you and the plant.

Myth #5: All vegetable plants need full sun. It’s really tempting to believe this one, given how important light is to starting seedlings. However, while many vegetable plants do thrive in full sun, that comes with some caveats we should all remember. Full sun can mean different things in different places—in very hot weather, full sun can cause pollination problems, blossom drop, and just plain old dehydration in many veggie plants. You’ll need to consider your garden’s unique conditions, and remember that many mature garden plants—tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and cucumbers in particular---will do perfectly well or even improve with a little shade on a hot afternoon.

We hope that by addressing these garden myths, misconceptions, and general gardening malarkey that we’ve helped the newcomers avoid some mistake while reminding experienced gardeners that not all garden lore is tested and true. If you have some favorite garden myths to share, let us know in the comments. Gardzen is all about community and we love to hear from you!

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